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John Lewis chair does not rule out permanent store closures

Lauretta Roberts
30 April 2020

John Lewis chair Dame Sharon White has declined to rule out the possibility of some stores remaining permanently closed after lockdown, following reports earlier this week that it was "highly unlikely" they would all re-open.

Dame Sharon told The Guardian than "no decisions" had been taken on specific stores yet, adding: “We are doing financial modelling looking at when lockdown is going to end and looking at what life outside lockdown will be like. We will have to look at the financial position for us when we get more certainty over the second half before taking those decisions.”

She said that it could take up to six weeks for some stores to re-open after the Government announces the lifting of lockdown restrictions as stores will need to be cleaned, new social distancing measures and PPE would need to be installed and staff would require specialist training.

The department store has a plan in place for re-opening and has said it is likely out of town stores would open first where there is more space and staff are better able to travel to work without using public transport.

Last week it revealed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on sales and said that overall, John Lewis sales are down 17% year-on-year since the middle of March, and down 7% year-on-year since 26 January. It had, however, seen a spike in online sales of 84% during lockdown.

Looking forward Dame Sharon said sales could be down by as much as 35% this year. She also said it was unlikely trade would bounce back immediately after lockdown lifts as the public would be reluctant to mix in large groups straight away, as had been evidenced by the behaviour of consumers in Asia where the virus had hit first and where restrictions had already been removed.

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